Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Logo for campaign to halt air travel
Editor’s Note: Some of the links in this report lead to graphic images that have been taken from the scanning process. Use caution in viewing the links.
Supporters say it enhances security aboard passenger jets, but critics say it is little more than government-sponsored voyeurism for Transportation Security Administration workers.
The dispute is over the new enhanced airport security screening procedures that offer a choice of either a nude, full-body image X-ray scan or a hands-on-all-parts pat-down by a federal agent.
And the controversy could be coming to a head.
The Air Transport Association of America says it expects 24 million people to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday period, and an online campaign is urging everyone who flies the day before Thanksgiving – usually one of the busiest air travel days of the year – to opt out of the new full-body, nude-image scanners.
“The goal of National Opt-Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change,” states the website. “No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.
“While the government doesn’t always like to advertise this, you have the ability to opt-out of the naked body scanner machines,” the organizers said.
The move was praised by some as a needed spotlight on the invasive images derived from the security screenings – so graphic that WND cannot post them online – and the aggressive nature of the alternative “pat-downs” conducted by federal agents. One woman described how agents grabbed and twisted her breasts.
But the campaign also drew some alarmed reactions because of the potential it has to clog or shut down the travel system.
“The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, after all, and airports are already overwhelmed with travelers. It doesn’t take much – a snowstorm, fog, or a citizen revolt – to throw an airport into total disarray,” said Carl Unger on the Smarter Travel blog.
“Chaos makes great news, sure, and news makes great exposure for a cause such as this, but I wonder if throwing a wrench into people’s holiday travels is the best way to win hearts and minds.”
He said the Opt-Out Plan, being promoted on the website run by Brian Sodegren, might not be aimed at causing difficulty, but it would “absolutely slow down the security process.”
But the one-day protest is just one of the growing tremors in an earthquake developing over the issue. And it’s not even the most extreme.
“We do not consent to strip searches, virtual or otherwise. We do not wish to be guinea pigs for new, and possibly dangerous, technology. We are not criminals. We are your customers. We will not beg the government anymore. We will simply stop flying until the porno-scanners are history,” the site states.
“We will not be abused simply for the privilege of purchasing your services. We demand the airlines make their maximum lobbying effort in support of our, your customers’, rights and liberties. We are eager to fly again, but only when this invasive threat has been contained.”
The organization provides a link to the Nudeoscope.com website, which outlines how passengers are supposed to be given the option of not being scanned.
It also profiles a number of cases in which passengers tell of the egregious treatment to which they’ve been subjected. In one case study, passenger Meg McLain told her story to Free Talk Live.
David Castelveter of the Air Transport Association said the industry is concerned about the privacy of its passengers, but safety takes priority.
“[The] decisions are made by the TSA. We simply comply with their recommendations and mandates,” he told WND. “They have established these new security measures.”
He said he doesn’t believe people will be deterred from flying by the invasion of privacy.
But the organizers of National Opt-Out Day and “We Won’t Fly” are committed.
“If we don’t take action, however meager and ineffective it may seem at first, the ability to opt out may soon disappear. We may soon find these porno-scanners on our roads, in our train stations and sports stadiums. We must end this dangerous and invasive technology here and now! Here’s what you can do,” said the “We Won’t Fly” site run by Babb and Donnelly.
“If you can avoid flying, drive, take a bus or train instead. Make them feel your resistance in their bottom line. Tell your airline about the business they lost.”
The two campaigns are just a taste of what is developing. For example:
An ABC affiliate in Phoenix reports the Association of Flight Attendants Local 66 is offering its members special advice on how to deal with the new TSA procedures, including demanding a private area for the pat-down procedures. “We don’t want them in uniform going through this enhanced screening where their private areas are being touched in public,” said spokeswoman Deborah Volpe. “They actually make contact with the genital area.”
At the Airline Biz Blog, reporter Terry Maxon says the head of the pilots’ union at US Airways is telling his members not to go through the body scanners, the same suggestion the Allied Pilots Association at American Airlines gave its members. Their concerns relate to the repeated doses of radiation from the scans. Mike Cleary of the US Airline Pilots Association warned of the consequences of the procedures, noting that pilots, after going through a pat-down, should determine if they are emotionally fit to fly. “The situation has already produced a sexual molestation in alarmingly short order,” he said.
Airlinenightmare.com reported that an American Airlines pilot refused the nude body imaging scan. “It’s long past time that policymakers take the steps necessary to exempt commercial pilots from airport security screening and grant designated pilot access,” wrote Capt. David Bates.
At Don’tScan.us, the advanced imaging technology was described as a “strip search.” “This technology uses radiation to penetrate a person’s clothes and create a nude image of the person. … the TSA considers the images produced … to be ‘family friendly.’” It continued, “If you feel that you or your child were inappropriately touched during the enhanced pat-down, call for a law enforcement officer.”
At Stopdigitalstripsearches.org, a coalition of organizations including the American Association of Christian Schools, American Association of Law Libraries, American Conservative Union, American Policy Center, Consumer Action, Consumers Union, Eagle Forum, Free Congress Foundation, Home School Legal Defense Association and dozens more is campaigning to reverse the TSA policy on “devices that photograph American air travelers stripped naked in U.S. airports.”
The Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that Dubai authorities have rejected the full-body scanners as not consistent with national customs and ethics.
WFTV in Florida reported that travelers at Orlando will soon be required to go through the scanners. “It’s just kind of awkward for somebody to see everything on you, you know, your private area and everything like that,” traveler Aurea Synder told the station.
The Washington Post reported the scanners will soon be in use at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Officials reported 341 of the machines were being used at 67 different airports and another 100 are scheduled for installation soon.
Officials with the Fiqh Council of North America said the machines are “against the teachings of Islam, natural law and all religions and cultures that stand for decency and modesty. … It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women.”
The Guardian reported that in the United Kingdom, the scanners set off alarms over legal bans on the creation of indecent images of children. Those under 18 eventually were exempted from a test project, but there’s no such exemption in the U.S.
One online company even offers a product to be worn under clothing that is designed to protect the wearer’s modesty by covering certain parts while going through the scanning process.
Wrote Unger at Smarter Travel.com, “It should surprise no one that we’ve reached this point. Body scanners have been unpopular since day one, and the TSA’s new enhanced pat-downs, which have been likened to molestation and groping, have only increased the public’s disdain for the agency.
“The choice between a full-body scanner and an enhanced pat-down is hardly a choice at all, and subjecting innocent citizens to invasive violations of privacy strikes me as an abuse of power. So I’m glad to see gathering opposition to the TSA’s policies, and … I certainly encourage frustrated travelers to take part in National Opt-Out Day.
“Voyeuristic equipment has been deployed at airports around the nation that more than violates your privacy – it violates the Constitution as well as child pornography and obscenity laws,” she warned. “While the Fourth Amendment doesn’t specifically mention ‘electronic’ strip searches, here’s what it does say:
“‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.’”
All-Africa reported that agents in Nigeria were amusing themselves by watching the nude images of female passengers, and in Miami, a screener who himself went through the screening attacked a colleague after he was ribbed by others who saw his body parts on a scanner.
The scanning already has generated opposition in Congress. There, the U.S. House voted 310-118 in support of an amendment from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to prohibit whole-body imaging as a primary screening. However, senators let the plan die.